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How committed am I to Cinematical and its readers? Very. So much so that when my editors called and asked if I could be in Puerto Rico by the end of the week to meet The Losers, I dropped everything and flew over mountains, sea, and Washington D.C. I'm not a nervous traveler by any means, but as we hit crazy turbulence over the ocean, I began to wonder if my dedication to all things geeky and cinematic was going to find me as the newest castaway on LOST. Combine the edges of the Bermuda Triangle with the then-raging swine flu epidemic, oppressive heat and humidity, and a filming location thick with Homeland Security officers, and you have the making of a very unusual Cinematical workday. But what other job lets you visit Puerto Rico to the tune of gunfire, and see a DC-Vertigo book brought to life? Not very many.
By now, you've met The Losers via their first trailer and you know just as much as we online outlets did before landing in San Juan. The Losers are the unlucky stars of Andy Diggle and Jock's DC/Vertigo series. They're a Special Forces team who worked for the CIA before being betrayed in Bolivia, labeled as traitors, and left for dead by their mysterious contact, Max. They give themselves a suitably cynical nickname and seek revenge and redemption. Along the way, they meet a mysterious and vicious woman named Aisha (Zoe Saldana) who offers to help them find and punish Max for what he's done to them.
We got up bright and early to venture down to the Port of San Juan, which was standing in for the Port of Los Angeles. By the time we were meeting the Losers, they were already engaged in the final battle of the movie. They were closing in on Max (Jason Patric), who was safely ensconced in a pristine white yacht. As the day wore on, this yacht seemed to take on a sinister life of its own. It honestly felt like someone was watching you from its windows, and I kept wondering if the notoriously intense Patric was actually doing just that. Those feelings at the back of your neck don't come out of nowhere, do they?
But the Losers were going to have to fight their way to that yacht. As we made our way to the set, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Clay) walked by, freshly "wounded" with bullet grazes. He stopped to be fitted with his shoulder holster, and the rest of the cast trickled by in similar stages of gore. Saldana's arm was wrapped in a bloody bandage, and Columbus Short's leg was stained with blood. Only Chris Evans (Jensen) and Oscar Jaenada (Cougar) seem unscathed.
We were invited closer to the scene of the carnage, which turned out to be a humble blue van sitting in the midst of packing crates. It was pocked with bullet holes and broken windows, and bullet casings already littered the pavement. The cast climbed into the van, the doors were shut behind them, and all hell broke loose. They burst out of the doors, guns blazing. Saldana has an Uzi, and is spraying the fake bullets as she runs. Morgan is blasting from two big guns. Evans is half-carrying Short, who is limping from a previous injury while trying to fire his own semi-automatic. They banter back and forth, but it's too loud to hear their dialogue. The gunshots and squibs are absolutely deafening. It sounds like Black Cat fireworks, but ten times louder, and a little too close for comfort. Just when you think it can't get any louder, one take seems like it might just demolish the van, the cast, the crew, and us with it. After Sylvain White cuts, Evans bounces up to the monitors looking excited and alarmed. "There was a lot more gunfire that time!" Morgan watches the monitors and laughs, looking as delighted by the carnage as the Comedian would.
This scene is repeated over and over again until they break for lunch. It's not a moment too soon. The soggy wet heat is absolutely brutal, and everyone is wilting, especially our action heroes who have to look fresh for the fight. We find out later that being on baked concrete was a vast improvement to filming their jungle scenes, where they were decked out in the heat in flak jackets and fatigues and being feasted on by mosquitoes.
As we make the rounds of the cast, we find out the heat isn't the only thing wearing them down. Injuries are common. "I'm hurt all the time! Seriously!" Morgan says. "From day one, we've been thrown into it. The first week I ripped a hamstring chasing after a helicopter and I've been limping through this ever since. What I've discovered is being an action star at the age of 43 – maybe I should have started this whole thing a little earlier ... I'm bathing myself in ice every night." Saldana shows us an enormous and vicious purple bruise on her knee, noting that her makeup survives action sequences, but her body doesn't. "We had [this] motel fighting scene and it's like I'm now healing. I mean, my arm was about to fall off. And my knee. But those piercings? [They] were intact."
Despite the punishing weather, frequent injuries, and island fever, everyone's in a good mood and enthusiastic about the film. The chemistry between the Losers certainly exists off screen, and every cast member is fervently hoping that the camera captures their real camaraderie. "You know, it doesn't happen on every movie," says Short. "We've got five or six characters on film, and everyone might not get along. This one, it's like we just jumped straight into it, like we've been doing movies together for years. So, a lot of laughter, a lot of joking. A lot of support. Like brothers and a sister."
"It's weird," Morgan agreed. "From the moment we got here, everyone just fell into – our natural personalities kind of dictated exactly what the comic book [laid out]. They did just such a good job of casting ... There became this immediate kind of symmetry between all of us. Everyone kind of took on their roles. I don't know if that's because we're all really serious about acting or it was just luck of the draw ... It's a good group and we all really like each other which is rare to say after three months. Usually I hate my cast by now!"
The Losers aims to be an action-comedy that is more in the style of the 1980s standbys over the gritty reality of Jason Bourne or Taken. "It's very much along the lines of the first Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. It's got that same kind of sense of humor, mixed with that kind of action," says Morgan. The film was originally a $100 million dollar movie until Joel Silver came board, and action newcomer White was eager to adopt Silver's classic comedic tone while giving it his own video-game inspired aesthetic. "This movie is really fun. The characters are fun, but at the same time I want the action to be extremely realistic, and extremely engaging. I think the marriage of those two is what's going to make this movie original."
Fans of Andy Diggle and Jock's graphic novel series will see much that's familiar and evocative of the books. White was careful to choose a cast that would immediately evoke the ones on the page, and kept the costumes, color palette, and weaponry true to the book while bringing his own look and style to the table. Because The Losers doesn't have as fanatic and canonical of a following, they also felt a little more free to take some liberties. "We've got some room to play with," says Morgan. "There's a couple of comic books put together as one. Andy Diggle and Jock love it, they signed off on it, so we got their support on it. [But] this movie kind of stands alone, and so we're able to have a little more fun with it. Not that I didn't have fun on Watchmen, but you had to be so faithful."
One angle that will have to be slightly unfaithful to the source material is the book's heady violence. The film has to keep to a PG-13, though Short insists they'll get away with a lot. "Trust me, there's going to be some blood, there's going to be some action, there's going to be some cool stuff."
Naturally, that cool stuff also includes an open ending. If the film does well, there are already plans to bring the Losers back for another run. Morgan and Short both confirm the ending is left open enough for a sequel, which Short promises will be "bigger and better." While we left Puerto Rico without any knowledge of who might survive the deadly raid on Max's yacht, I suspect things end pretty well. In the glory days of graphic adaptations, even losers end up winners.
The Losers blast into theaters on April 23. Check out all the new character banners and the newest poster in the gallery before!